Thierry Lefort, a Cézanne in California by Agnes Chareton, 26.07.2023
With his felt hat, his salt and pepper locks and his pendant earring, he cultivates a youthful look and a little rebellious side. Thierry Lefort gave us an appointment in Burbank, north of Los Angeles, at the foot of the huge fresco he completed here a year ago. At the request of the city, the French painter reproduced on a wall one of his oils on canvas, spotted on Instagram, in XXL format. At the crossroads of East Orange Grove and San Fernando Boulevard, he was able to capture the soul of the place.
The imposing line of the hills, a wide avenue lined with palm trees whose fine shadows splash the walls, dazzling colors… It's like feeling the heat of a summer in Burbank. “ It took me a month and a half to build this wall. I painted on the sidewalk from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day. It was a great experience ,” says the painter over a Starbucks coffee, enjoyed on a bench.
From Los Angeles - where he lives half the year - to Paris, this work earned him a new burst of notoriety. She likes so much that she has been offered other projects. She even caught the eye of the famous American street artist Shepard Fairey. “ At a vernissage, he told me that what I had done was fine art on a wall. “You might have started a new thing,” he told me. And yet, he knows about walls, he has painted them all around the globe ,” the Frenchman is still surprised.
In terms of talent, Thierry Lefort has nothing to envy to Shepard Fairey. At 56, over a life devoted to painting, his unique sensibility has found its audience. You can discover his paintings on his website or his Instagram account . Urban landscapes sketched " on the motif " , vibrant colors and those mysterious shadows that bring out the light... Today, his works are noticed in the cozy circle of French art collectors.
Sublimate things and places
A street, electric poles, cars... “ My job is to sublimate places that are not necessarily pleasing to the eye. I like to find beauty where you don't see it right away, ” explains the artist with a transparent gaze. Her favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles? Eco Park or Hollywood, “ with its uphill and winding roads. » If his painting may seem simple, it is in fact the result of a long work of composition to « bring a simplified, pleasant vision of things, without complication. »
His vocation was born at the age of 12, in Paris. He who " was not made for school " perfected his technique for ten years with Philippe Lejeune, the " master of the school of Etampes. In 2016, he wanted to " cut with the Parisian microcosm " and set off to try the adventure in California. Thanks to Maud Bonanni, an actress and model, he scoured the studios of Los Angeles. It's the click. “ LA is a city teeming with artists and ideas,” he appreciates. People go further, are more eccentric. Being around them forces me to get out of my frame. »
But it was his meeting with Yoyo Maeght , granddaughter of the great art dealer Aimé Maeght, two years ago, that made him change dimension. The exhibition curator spots something rare in him. “ In Thierry's compositions, just like a painting by Kandinsky, you can't take anything away or add anything. He removes a lot of things from the image and only keeps the essentials ” she enthuses.
The challenge of this first major exhibition on American soil is no less enormous. How to hold the pressure? “ Between 1997 and 2001, I lived in the Shaolin Temple, considered the cradle of martial arts, in China, where I experimented with 'secret' interior techniques and meditation, replies the painter. I have kept an inner peace that helps me to be centered on me. »
Yoyo Maeght is convinced of it, this admirer of Cézanne has everything to be familiar with the greatest: “ It just takes time for a great art critic to write about him in an influential magazine and for recognition to come from abroad. A recognition that could well come from California.